Friday, October 12, 2018

Portland, Oregon in 36 hours

Two years ago we visited Portland, Oregon and knew we'd be returning.  (See previous post here) In fact we've even talked about moving up there one day, maybe when the kids are older.  This time around the weather was wet but it didn't keep us from getting out and enjoying the coast, farm, a creamery and children's museum.  Here's what we did in our short, 3 day jaunt to Portland.

Day 1
Our first stop was The Pumpkin Patch at Sauvie Island.  The last time we were here was during the Summer so I wanted to see what it was like during their Fall season.  If you plan to visit during this time, wear boots!!  We had no clue what to expect but some areas are muddy due to the rain.  One of their biggest attractions is their corn maze.  This was a first for everyone in our family.  Make sure you visit the portable potties beforehand because it can take awhile to get through the entire maze.  The good thing is, you can exit halfway through.  We opted to finish it and it took about 45 minutes.  Upon entering, you can select from an array of clue sheets varying by topic, ie: superheros, TV and movie, tots.  Throughout the maze are numbered signs which match up to the clues on the sheet.  Answer the question correctly and it'll direct you on which way to turn.  If you'd like a chance to enter a raffle, grab one of the Cornundrum cards for an added fun activity.  Scattered throughout the maze are also pictured signs/riddles. Try to decipher the picture and match it to one of those listed on the card.  At the exit, drop this off for a chance to win a prize.  Other fun things to do here besides the maze are the hayrides and cow trains, neither of which we got to try due to long lines.  Their animal barn is also a hit with the kids.  Don't forget to visit their market for some tasty treats and fresh produce. There is also a cafe and food booths available on the weekends so it really is a one stop shop.

Know Before you Go:
Hours: 9a - 6p
Wear boots if going during rainy season
Admission to the farm is free
Corn Maize - $8 ages 12+, $6 ages 6-12 and seniors, kids 5 and under are
16511 NW Gillihan Rd. Portland, OR 97231

Day 2:
We decided to drive toward the coast and visit the Tillamook Creamery which is about 1.5 hours from downtown Portland.  On our way we stopped at the Tillamook Forest Center for a potty break and some exploring.  Their information center contains lots of exhibits and history of the area.  There is even a kids scavenger hunt worksheet that we helped the kids complete for a prize at the end.  This actually forced us to walk around and read the exhibits which was very informative.  There are lots of outdoor trails as well which we couldn't enjoy due to time constraints and the rain.  

Know before you go:
Tillamook Forest Center
Hours: Wed-Sun 10a - 4p
45500 Wilson River Hwy, Tillamook, OR 97141

After about an hour we were on our way to Tillamook Creamery.  There is a self guided tour which begins upstairs but get in line for some cheese samples first!  From the second floor you can see the gift shop, restaurant area and the behind the scenes cheese making which is part of the tour.  Then head back down and enjoy some food or ice cream as we did.  The lines are long but they go by pretty fast.
By the way, if you're hankering for some seafood, given that you're by the coast, stop by The Fish Peddler at Pacific Oyster.  The raw oysters are super fresh and the clam chowder is one of the best I've had.

Know before you go:
Tillamook Creamery
4165 Highway 101 North, Tillamook, OR 97141
Hours: 8a - 6p

Day 3:
Since we had another rainy day, we decided to head to the Children's Portland Museum in Washington Park.  There are lots of interactive activities from a  water room, veterinary office, grocery store, to a theater.  Our kids favorite rooms here were the Maker Studio and Clay Studio.  Let your kid's creativity flow in the Maker Studio where you can make anything out of recycled material from cardboard, yarn, plastic bottles, you name it.  All materials are provided and you simply rummage through to find what you need.  Tools available also include glue guns and drills.   In the Clay Studio, grab a block of clay and mold it into anything you want.  You may choose to take it home for a nominal fee, have it painted and fired up for pick up another day or simply recycle the clay for the next person.

Know before you go:
Hours: 9a - 5p
Admission: $11 non-members, Free 1 and under
4015 SW Canyon Road, Portland, OR 97221

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Art Zone Children's Studio

We’ve been wanting to check out Art Zone for awhile after hearing good things from friends.  Our daughter loves arts and crafts so I decided to take her during their Open Studio session.  The staff was very friendly and immediately offered to give us a quick tour given that it was our first time.  They offer several “stations” which are set up for independent play.  On this day they had a table with clay, cookie cutters, beads and beans to mold your own creation.  Another table had slime with various cups and play scissors.  Violet immediately bee-lined for the easel and paint brushes and her inner Picasso went to work on several masterpieces.  Further back was another table set up with paper cut outs with glue and confetti for the kids to make a mess.  That’s what I love about this place…messes are encouraged.  At the very back is a water room with a running fountain and water toys.  Rubber sandals are available for the kids.  Next to the water room is a small area with windows and spray bottles with color liquid to spray on the windows.  Squeegees are provided to “start over”.  And lastly there is a playroom full of dress up clothes a small climbing structure and random toys.  This was Violet’s least favorite room probably because there was no art involved.  We spent a solid 2 hours here and would’ve stayed longer if it weren’t for the fact that it was approaching lunchtime.  This was well worth the $15 and they package up all the child’s creations to take home.  Art Zone is unique in that it is self-led or parent guided and the child can choose which activity to do and how to do it.  Employees do walk around to replenish supplies but there are not there to assist in the art in any way.  They are also a preschool and offer art classes, camps and Parents Night Out and birthday parties if you’re looking for something more structured.


Know before you go:
Open Studio (ages 18 months and up) - $15 (packages available) check website or call for hours
Parent’s Night Out (ages 3 and up) – $35  Fridays 5:30p-8:30p
Free parking in their lot – 4 spaces otherwise there is street parking.
Changing table is available.

About the business:
Art Zone
1102 Aviation Blvd.
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Summer Glamping

We’ve been wanting to expose the kids to camping but given that our littlest one is only 2 we opted for a glamping trip instead.  We decided to book a cabin at a KOA.  If you’re not familiar with KOAs, they are tent, cabin and RV campgrounds all across America (hence the name Kampgrounds of America).  Since we had already planned to take a drive to the Bay Area we decided to find a KOA along the way.  Avila/Pismo KOA was our choice.  This campground only offers cabins or an RV space.  Upon check-in they give you a list of the activities going on during your stay.  The day we arrived there was a wine tasting, movie night and ice cream social.  I was very impressed with our 2 bedroom cabin known as the Park Model.  It’s basically a mobile home but it was very clean and came stocked with basic toiletries, towels, dishes and cookware.  The campground itself was nice, with mostly RV’s.  They did seem very close together so keep that in mind if you opt for RV camping.  There’s a decent sized playground and heated pool with jacuzzi.  One thing the kids were looking forward to that we didn’t get to do was make s’mores.  I was hoping for a campfire outside the cabin but unfortunately there weren’t any.

As for activities, they do have bicycles for rent.  The Avila Barn is within walking distance, literally across the street.  It’s a large farm with lots of animals to feed.  You can purchase goat feed in the produce store for $1.  There’s also a bakery and ice-cream shop and occasionally they sell fresh roasted corn right out front.  I believe they also have u-pick fruits and vegetables.  This was a fun little stop for the kids. 

If hiking is more your thing, just up the road is the Bob Jones Trail that takes you on a 2.5 mile road to Avila Beach.  This is a wide path and stroller friendly, thank goodness as my 2 year old would not have made it on her feet.  Halfway through the hike is a little coffee shop where we stopped for a drink and potty break.  The trail ends right across the street from the beach.  Cross over and you’ll see Central Coast Aquarium, playground and a whole row of shops and restaurants.  When we were done, we hopped on a free trolley at Avila Beach Dr. and San Juan St. which takes you back to Avila Barn.  This trolley goes all the way to the Pismo Outlets so stay on if you want to do a little shopping.  The trolley takes approximately 1 hour to make a full loop and get back to where it dropped you off.

We also spent a bit of time at Pismo Beach.  There are a couple well known spots there, Splash Café, known for their award winning clam chowder and Old West Cinnamon Rolls.  Expect crazy lines at both places!

Know Before you Go:
Avila/Pismo Beach KOA
7075 Ontario Rd,
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405

Avila Valley Barn
560 Avila Beach Dr,
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
Hours: M-Sun 9a-6p

Splash Café Pismo Beach
197 Pomeroy Ave
Pismo Beach, CA 93449

Old West Cinnamon Rolls
861 Dolliver St
Pismo Beach, CA 93449
Hours: M-Sun 6:30a-5:30p

Friday, May 26, 2017

Wonder of Dinosaurs

If there are dinosaur lovers in your family, check out the Wonders of Dinosaur at the Southbay Galleria.  Even if you aren't a dinosaur lover, this is a great place to burn some energy.  With bouncey jumpers of all sizes, including large ones with obstacle courses, it's suited for kids ages 2-12.  They advertise this as an educational venue but there really isn't much education around.  Let's face it, it's just a HUGE dinosaur themed indoor playground.  Aside from bouncies, there's a large mechanical T-Rex to ride, a maze, a mini ride and lots of coloring sheets at each table.  One thing I didn't like was the fact that they charge for adults to basically just supervise their own kids.  They are expanding to the 2nd floor (currently on 3rd) on May 26, 2017 with more activities like a carousel, train ride and 18 hole mini golf course, all of which will cost extra.  It seems admission to the original 3rd floor location will remain all-inclusive with no additional fees.  Admission does include in/out privileges which is nice since food is not allowed inside.  They do have birthday party packages in a private room.  Overall, if pricing isn't an issue, I'd recommend this place at least once.

Know before you go:
South Bay Galleria
1815 Hawthorne Blvd, 3rd Fl
Redondo Beach, CA 90278
(951) 543-6011
Mon-Fri  Child (2-12) $16, Adult (13-54) $8, Senior (55+) $7
Sat-Sun  Child (2-12) $18, Adult (13-54) $10, Senior (55+) $7
M-F 10a-9p
Sat 10a-8p


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Palm Springs in 24 hours

To close out 2016 we decided to take a short family trip out to Palm Springs.  Our main purpose was to take the kids somewhere for snow play but since our plans were so last minute, and being that it was around the holidays, we couldn’t find any available accommodations.  We opted for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway which takes you 2.5 miles to the top of a mountain in a 360 degree rotating gondola.  The view is spectacular and with the rotation, you won’t be bored looking at the same thing.  The ride is about 10 minutes, just long enough before the kiddos got antsy.  The day we went it actually started snowing as we were on the tram so it was quite a beautiful sight.  The tram lets you off at the top and filters you inside the lodge.  There is a cafeteria, bar, bathrooms, and plenty of seating.  We brought our sleds so we heading outside and down a zig zag ramp to join all the other people having fun in the snow.  We enjoyed a fun few hours before heading back up for some food.  One word of advice, buy your tickets early and online.  Tram tickets are timed so once a slot sells out, you are ticketed for the next available.  We didn’t know and bought the tickets onsite.  Even though we got there first thing in the morning we still had to wait almost an hour for our tram.  After our day in the mountains we checked into our hotel at the nearby Doubletree and enjoyed a nice dinner in the downtown area.

The next day was our final day in the area (I told you it was a short trip).   We decided to check out the Palm Springs Air Museum since my son loves airplanes.  If your kids are too small to enjoy the museum experience, there are several real life displays outside.  There are two main hangers filled with war planes, bombers, and even a little play area for the kids.  The staff is super friendly and love sharing their stories.  Most of them are volunteer veterans so if you’re curious about something don’t be shy to ask.

As we headed back to the LA area we made 2 more pit stops one for the kids and one for me.  We had heard about and seen the giant dinosaurs off the 10 freeway on our way to Palm Springs.  Turns out it’s a museum.  Since it was starting to rain we decided just to stop for some pictures only and never made it inside but just the sight of them was enough for my kids.  I’m really curious if it’s worth going inside for.  If you’ve been, please comment below.

Our final destination was a 5 minute drive over to the outlets!  If you're going to drive all the way out this far, might as well so some shopping on the way home right?  Dessert Hills Premium Outlets has some high end stores like Fendi, Burberry, Tory Burch, as well as your typical GAP, Banana Republic type stores.  If you have a AAA card, stop by the information center and pick up a brochure for even more coupons and discounts.

So that's it, our 24 stay in Palm Springs plus a few extra stops heading back to LA.  Next time we're out there we hope to venture to Joshua Tree.  Stay tuned!

Know before you go:
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
1 Tram Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262
Monday – Friday – First Tram up 10:00am

SaturdaySunday and Holidays – First Tram up 8:00am
Adults $25.95
Children $16.95 (3-12)
Seniors $23.95 (65+)

Palm Springs Air Museum
745 North Gene Autry Trail. Palm Springs CA 92262
Daily 10am - 5pm
Adults $16.50
Youth (13-17), Seniors (65+), and Retired Military $14.50
Youth (6-12) $9.50

Cabazon Dinosaurs
50770 Seminole Drive, Cabazon, CA 92230
Daily 10-430p
Adults $10
Children $9 (2-12)
Senior (55+) and Military $7

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Great Room Cafe

What a great addition to the South Bay!  The Great Room Café recently opened in Redondo Beach and we were very excited to check it out.  It is an indoor play space for kids but also serves a full menu including alcohol.  The play area is separated into 2 rooms, one for toddlers with a wooden play structure, pretend kitchen and books and another room for the older kids which has video games, computers and TV.  The rest is an open dining room with couches, family style seating and lots of big screen TVs.  They also have a private room to reserve for parties.  We took our 2 little ones here and were able to enjoy a nice meal while the kids played in the rooms.  One issue people have complained about is the lack of view of the play rooms from the dining area.  They’ve addressed this issue by always having a dedicated staff in the toddler room to supervise the kids.  I didn’t see any staff in the older kids room though.  The food isn’t bad and the menu here is pretty extensive including salads, pizzas, pasta, sandwiches, desserts and drinks.  We’ve been to several indoor playgrounds and this definitely has a more upscale vibe catering not just to the kids but adults as well.  Stop by to catch up with friends or watch a game while your kids have a great time as well.

Know before you go:
Hours: Daily 7a-10p, Fri-Sat 7a-11p
Free parking is available in their lot.
$10 per child, $8 for siblings

About the business:
2810 Artesia Blvd
Redondo Beach, CA 90278
424-255-TGR1 (8471)

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas Lights at Candy Cane Lane

Ever since we moved to the South Bay, we’ve made it an annual tradition to visit Candy Cane Lane, also known as Sleepy Hollow.  If you’re not familiar with this, it’s a neighborhood in South Torrance known for their spectacular light decorations.  And it really is spectacular, bringing crowds from all over Los Angeles.  It is one of the largest light displays in the country.  Most of the homes go all out. Enjoy the sights as you stroll through the streets and crowds of people.  You’ll also encounter many vendors selling hot chocolate, popcorn, homemade goodies and even churros.  If you choose to drive through, be prepared for lots of car traffic.  Bring the entire family and enjoy the holiday spirit!

Know before you go:
Location: Torrance, 90505
Enter from Pacific Coast Highway @ Robert St. or Calle Mayor @ Carlow St and follow the signs
Lights run approximately from Dec 1st – Jan 1st from 6p-10p
Come early to avoid crowds and find parking.  Here’s a tip, park near Seaside Elementary School.
Bring small bills for drinks and snacks.
Be prepared for long lines and crowds.

No public restrooms!